Most people equate empty nesters with loneliness. Silvernest, a startup based in Boulder, Colorado, is changing this thought. Silvernest is a roommate matching service for the elderly that’s been described as an Airbnb for seniors. In a new era where many more people are more comfortable with sharing (Uber, Airbnb, etc.), I think that the future for Silvernest looks golden.
After finding this innovative service on Crunchbase, I was able to get in touch with the CEO and co-founder of Silvernest, Wendi Burkhardt:
What is Silvernest?
Silvernest an online roommate-matching platform that pairs boomers, empty nesters, retirees and other aging adults with compatible housemates for long-term home sharing. Through these creative living situations, they earn extra income (average of $10,000 a year per bedroom), remain in their homes longer and keep isolation at bay.
We’re facing unprecedented aging in the US, with 10,000 people a day turning 65, and a boomer population of 109 million that’s projected to reach 132 million by 2030. This population wants to age in place and most own their homes, yet they’re often faced with rising living costs on fixed budgets. Many are also underprepared financially for retirement, and with life expectancy at an all-time high, they’re facing even longer retirements.
These factors are spurring them to participate in the sharing economy by leveraging what are often their biggest assets – their homes – to generate extra income for mortgage payments, home upgrades, taxes and other living costs.
Silvernest’s platform matches homeowners and housemates based on behavioral profiles and demographic preferences, and allows them to conduct full background checks, communicate securely in-platform, create state-specific leases and process rent payments.
Where did the idea for Silvernest come from? How long has it been around?
The concept of Silvernest emerged through personal experience, having aging loved ones in my family, as well as through our early co-founder’s experience in the aging industry. We recognized that this aging generation really wants to redefine the way that they age, and that includes changing the physical space they age within. Many people have been in a position where they’ve watched their family and other loved ones age and have to move out of their home, and I think what’s happening with boomers and empty nester is that they’re realizing that they want an alternative. They want a place to stay where they’ve lived for a long time, to remain in their communities and they aspire to age in place. Silvernest was born to help address that need, and we launched our online service about a little over a year and a half ago.
Can you provide the details of your recent seed-funding round?
In June, we announced that we raised $1.3 million. The oversubscribed round included contributions from prominent venture capital and angel investors, such as Halogen Ventures, 1843 Capital, Rockies Venture Club, Investor’s Circle and 500 Startups.
Retirees sharing a house isn’t a new concept, but is it seeing a resurgence now?
You’re right that the idea of home sharing among aging adults isn’t a wholly new concept, but we’re seeing a bigger movement than ever for a couple of reasons. One is that boomers is the fastest-growing demographic. There are currently 109 million Americans over 50, and that number is expected to grow to 132 million by 2030. By comparison, there are just 75 million millennials.
This group was also the early adopters in the sharing economy, and is the fastest-growing demographic of sharing economy providers. They set the stage for “shared living” later in life (similar to the Golden Girls), long before it was a consideration.
We’re finding that these types of shared living situations are becoming exceedingly popular, as more aging adults leverage their largest assets – their homes – to earn some extra income, remain in their homes longer and benefit from the companionship of others. AARP stats show that 4 million women over the age of 50 live in US households with at least two other women over 50 – a number that’s expected to rise.
Technology is also helping to spur this movement by making the process easier, safer and secure. For instance, our solution does pre-screening, compatibility-based matching, background checks, lease creation and even helps manage automatic payments. People feel much more comfortable using our service than finding someone from unregulated rental listings.
How do you balance having an online product with the fact that many older adults aren’t online?
It’s interesting because that’s one of the questions that comes up frequently when we’re talking about our solution. People tend to think the older generation isn’t digitally savvy, but the numbers will tell you otherwise. In the over-50 age group today, over 46% have a smart phone, 65% of them are active daily on social media and 75% are digital buyers.
In fact, when it comes to our roommate-matching solution, almost half of our first-time users actually come in through a mobile platform. That’s exciting to me because it’s telling us that this generation is actually more digitally savvy than they get credit for. However, it all makes sense if you remember that they’re the ones who created the products that have come before us – things like pagers, the old brick cellphones and the DVD players. We tend to forget about these products, but they’ve been part of our technological evolution over the past 15-20 years or so. This aging generation has also gone on to help create some of the best applications on the Internet, some of the best companies and the best products that exist today. I 100% believe that this generation is receptive to technology solutions and welcome them, and that’s what we’re finding with our customer base.
What benefits – besides the monthly rental income – can users get from homesharing?
There are a lot of them, starting with extra income, companionship, connection and the ability to stay in the home as the years go on. There’s also the safety and security that comes with co-habitating with someone else. Homeowners can even choose to offer reduced rent in exchange for home maintenance, cleaning and other around-the-house help from their housemate – and a good number of them do.
There is an AARP statistic that states that social isolation has the same health impact as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. That alone should be motivation for all of us to find a housemate as we age.
What milestone are you most proud of?
I’m very proud of closing a seed funding round for Silvernest because it’s the hardest round to close. Another major feat is achieving a 64% month-over-month growth rate in homeowner signups in our first year of business, which is a number that we were intently focused on. On a bigger scale, I’m grateful and proud of launching another startup and surviving.
What are some items that are essential to efficiently run your business or life?
First and foremost is a strong understanding of your goals and a solid roadmap – where do you want to go and how will you get there? It’s also critical to have a well designed budget, as well as a strong team both personally and professionally. I must say that good wine doesn’t hurt either 😉
Lastly, what’s the riskiest move you’ve taken in your business? Any lessons learned?
Becoming an entrepreneur has been my greatest risk, and I believe it’s the greatest risk someone could ever take. Along the way, I’ve learned that being an entrepreneur isn’t for everyone. You have to have a certain affinity for working without structure. I knew a long time ago that I prefer to create and build things, rather than operate in a well defined environment. I am much better at operating in the “unknown” than I am within a completely defined position. It’s important to know this about yourself relative to your role.
Another big lesson is that it’s all about the numbers, and you better like dealing with numbers to be an entrepreneur because it’s where you’ll spend 90% of your time and attention.
If you’d like to learn more about Silvernest, you can: